Your guide to anti-pollution skincare

Anti-Pollution Skincare Guide

Words: Abisoye Odugbesan

When deciding to live in a major city there are many factors to consider, the cost of living vs career opportunities, access to great food, culture, social life and close proximity to a Zara store are all very important in the decision making. How city dwelling might affect your health might come into the equation, but your skin, not so much. And whilst the appeal of easy access to well stocked beauty halls and an abundance of spas and the best facialists is alluring the lesser known and hidden danger to accelerated skin ageing, pollution, is also in ample supply.

Toxic City

The law requires that nitrogen dioxide (NO2) a toxic gas produced by diesel vehicles must not exceed the hourly measurement of 200 micrograms per cubic meter more than 18 times in a whole year. At the start of this year, just a mere few weeks into January, London had already breached the legal pollution limits of NO2 for the entire year. Brixton had exceeded the limit 18 times at the end of January and has continued to do, breaching the annual limit 78 times so far according to data from London Air Quality Network which details current air pollution levels across London. The air we breathe has been at illegal toxic levels in most cities in the UK for the past few years, in 2016 Putney high street broke the limit a frightening 1600 times. And it’s not just London, if you live in any major city in the world you are most likely exposed to the same levels of pollution.

How exactly does pollution affect our skin?

Simply put, exposure to pollution and other environmental stressors produce free radicals in our bodies and on our skin. Free radicals work to destroy our bodies natural ability to eliminate toxins, they suck out moisture and slow down collagen production. The damage that they cause at a cellular level can result in anything from premature ageing to cancer. To make matters worse, the ageing effects of pollution are amped up on hot days when there is more UV radiation exposure. But before you start penning that letter of resignation or cancel that city break you’ve been planning, there is an alternative.
You can fight back and protect your skin by implementing an anti-pollution beauty regime, whether you want to make a small change and introduce a new product to your routine or you want a complete overhaul, here is our guide to products that promise to help city-proof your skin.

Super Charge your night time cleansing routine

1/  Supercharge your night time cleansing routine

 Scientist recently discovered PM2.5 a particle of pollution up to 20 times smaller than your pores, it can infiltrate the deeper layers of the epidermis. Once in, these particles can bind to the skin cell receptors, causing oxidative stress which result in wrinkles and uneven pigmentation.

The solution? Deep cleansing. Amp up your nightly cleansing routine to combat the affects of dirt and pollution that has built up on your skin throughout the day. Smooth on a cleanser like Tata Harper Purifying Cleanser, a powerful  formulation of  purple clay, broccoli extract and essential oils that promises to eradicate toxins from the skin and help to refine pores. ‘You may get a tingling feeling due to the ginger and enzymes’ so be careful around the eyes.  Boost it’s cleansing power by using a cleansing brush to ensure a deep and through cleanse, my favourite is the Luna Foreo. Oskia Citylife Cleansing Concentrate is ‘a refreshing and gentle cleanser for environmentally stressed complexions’. Willow bark & Phytic Acid gently exfoliate whilst copper rich Malachite shields against environmentally induced oxidative stress. Vitamin A,C and E boost skin health and Eucalptus and Lavender soothe a calming but powerful little cleanser. If you prefer the texture of a cream cleanser then Skin Laundry Skin Purifying Cream Cleanser might be the answer. Enriched with skin nourishing, anti-inflammatory aloe barbadensis leaf juice and hydration boosting macadamia nut oil, leaving skin cleansed, detoxified and rejuvenated.

Unless you’re at a festival or backpacking somewhere around the world  there is no excuse for a face wipe at night, you need an intensive robust cleansing routine if you want to rid your skin of the build up of sweat, make-up, dirt and pollutants that it has acquired a wipe is just not going to cut it. If you don’t have a cleansing brush then invest in a good exfoliator like Skyn Iceland Nordic Peel. The pads exfoliate and clear pores without drying out the skin whilst the potent antioxidants help protect the skin. Charcoal is also great for pulling out all the dirt and gunk from your pores, we love Masque bar’s Luminizing Charcoal Masque for a purifying deep cleanse. Clay Masks work the same as charcoal but  can be better on sensitive or dry skin try Dr Weil for Origins By All Greens Foaming Cleansing Mask a rich blend of antioxidants and Kaolin Clay to help remove skin-damaging dirt and pore-cloggers.

Anti-oxidant products to help fight against free radicals

2/  Up the Anti

Antioxidants help to fight the effects of damaging free radicals, eating foods with high levels of antioxidants helps our bodies to detoxify and purge impurities from the inside out. However, it’s important to note that your skin is the last organ to receive the benefits of nutrients taken internally so a two-pronged approach is your best line of defence. Protect the front line by applying products with high concentrations of antioxidants daily. We love SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic  a high potency formula that boosts skin’s natural protection against free radicals. If you’re into using a toner, then add an anti-oxidant rich one into your routine.  Aseop Parsley Seed Anti-Oxidant Facial Toner is infused with active botanical extracts like witch hazel, green tea and pure blue chamomile. The anti-oxidant rich formulation is alcohol free and soothes, balances skin. This toner will remove any remnants of dirt and grime leaving your skin prepped and ready for your serum or moisturiser.

Zelens Intense Defence Antioxidant Serum ‘is a potent antioxidant serum formulated with a unique blend of synergistic ingredients to help fight against three types of free radicals (ROS, RNS, RCS) and defend from environmental assaults’. This powerhouse of a product contains 18 active ingredients  from Vitamin C and E  to pycnogenol, an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties and Tripeptide, which boots collagen production and improves collagen fibre quality. Kypris Antioxidant Dew can be used a lightweight moisturiser or a layered with your skin. Packed with ocean extracts and herb derived antioxidants and Vitamins C & E it promises to restore hydration and radiance to  your skin.

Your fruit and veg are important sources of anti-oxidants and it’s worth buying organic as some fresh produce can be exposed to pesticides and chemicals whilst being grown.
Greens really are good for you,  up your intake of seaweed and dark leafed vegetables as these naturally bond to toxins to carry them through the body. Chorella, Acai Berry and Spirulina are all powerful antioxidants supporting kidney and liver functions head to Naturya for a dose of goodness.
Keep the flow going and sprinkle Chia Seeds and or Flax Seeds to your breakfast bowls or smoothies, the more regularly you go to the loo the more toxins leave your body.

Multi -tasking products to help hydrate and protect your skin

3/  Hydrate and Protect

Dry skin is more susceptible to the damage of city grime and fumes, exposure to pollution depletes Squalane (a moisturiser naturally found in skin)and weakens the skin’s barrier functions. In short keeping skin well hydrated is a crucial step in this fight. So slather on a protective barrier daily. But a warning to ladies who apply make-up during your morning commute. Pollution sticks to moisturisers so if you apply your moisturiser before you leave the house and then apply your make-up on the tube/ bus you risk sandwiching harmful pollutants and pressing them further into your skin. This goes for touch ups throughout the day, not always convenient but it is best to wipe clean and start again, just saying.

We all know that our Ozone layer is damaged which means we are exposed to harmful rays now more than ever. These UV rays can damage the skin and accelerate skin conditions such as hyper-pigmentation so it really is important to protect yourself daily. Multi-tasking products such as La Solution 10 DE Chanel is a soothing moisturiser that is ‘formulated for sensitive skin that is irritated by aggressors such as pollution’.

La Roche-Posay Pigmetclar UV SPF30 daily moisturiser is also a great multi-tasking product that provides powerful anti-pollution and SPF protection. It has an ‘anti-dark’ spot complex to create a more ‘uniform skintone’ whilst keeping skin moisturised. Garnier’s Moisture Bomb SPF10 contains two antioxidant super-fruit extracts, Amla and Pomegranate and also offers UVA/UVB protection.

For additional protection Cover FX Clear Cover Invisible Sunscreen is a multi-tasking product that hydrates whilst protecting your skin as it provides broad-spectrum SPF30.Packed with antioxidants and enriched with squalane and natural sesame extract, it also nourishes and brightens. A super lightweight formula, this gel-like serum is absorbed effortless into skin without leaving any of the usual tell-tale signs of an SPF. Aseop Parsley Seed Anti-oxidant Facial Hydrating Cream, is “A potent, soothing cream formulated with emollient botanicals and antioxidants  rich ingredients to fortify and replenish skin’, a nourishing moisturiser perfect for dry skin. Elizabeth Arden Prevage City Smart is designed to strengthen your skin’s natural defences with it’s DNA Complex technology. It’s smart polymers form an invisible skin shield to protect against pollutants whilst the broad spectrum SPF protects from UV exposure.

Murad Essential-C Day Moisture SP30 helps to prevent sun damage and repair existing environmental damage. A powerful antioxidant-rich daily moisturiser that protects against free radical and offers both UVA and UVB protection.

Guerlain Orchidee Imperiale Revitialising Night Essence has a high concentration of detoxifying and anti-ageing ingredients to keep skin looking clear and fresh. Infused with anti-oxidant grape seed, regenerating rosehip and detoxifying carrot oils it helps to support the skin’s natural ‘nocturnal revitalising process’.

Layering products to help protect your skin

4/  Layer up


Take extra steps in shielding your skin by layering these product under your moisturiser to help build barriers to your skin for additional protection. Vichy’s best-selling innovation, Idealia Life Serum is the result of 11 years of research and 17 patents. This unique formula helps transform and protect skin that is exposed to stress, pollution and smoke. Murad Environmental Shield Active Radiance Serum is formulated with a highly stable Vitamin C, 50 times the potency of prior generations – to improve skin radiance, helps to enhance collagen production and protect against free radical damage. Ren Flash Defence Anti-Pollution Mist is a fine mist that instantly forms an invisible protective barrier to shield skin and supports the skin’s natural defences against oxidative stress this can be used over a moisturiser or make-up. Verso’s Anti Pollution Mist is another great toxin repellent, containing a ‘metal-binding polymer that prohibits, pollutant metals and gasses from entering the skin’. Dr Andrew Weil for Origins Mega Defense Daily UV Defender SPF45 is formulated with skin-strengthening Opuntia Cactus Extract, more than just a sunscreen, it also creates a moisture barrier to boost skin’s resilience.

Night time products to keep the fight going whilst you sleep

5/  Night Time Combat

Damage done to skin during the day can affect your skin’s natural night time repairing process, this is why it is so important to never go to bed without cleansing your face. Invest in products that will carry on the fight whilst you sleep. SkinCeuticals Resveratrol B E is a potent night concentrate of ‘pure, stable Resveratrol, Baicalin, Alpha Tocopherol (Vitamin E)’, an impressive list of ingredients that help target the signs of ageing and effects of pollution.  If you are serious about protecting your skin , this product will deliver and is worth the investment, think of it as skin care’s answer to the Rock you want it on your side.
The sensitive area around the eyes are most at risk of damage, Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Serum Synchonized Complex 11 contains ChronoluxCB™ Technology an anti-pollution formula to fight any damage caused. Claudalie Over Night Detox Oil  also helps to promote cellular renewal and toxin elimination so that you wake up  with clear and fresh looking skin. Masks are great for when you have the luxury of time, Kiehl’s Cilantro & Orange Extract Pollutant Defending Masque ‘defends and replenishes skin leaving radiant and prepared to protect itself from daily environmental aggressors. As this products includes AHA’s be sure to apply sunscreen the next morning’. This rule applies to any acids or products containing acids. For an indulgent treatment, Farmacy’s Honey Potion face mask is infused with powerful antioxidants that is intensely hydration, perfect if you have been walking around the city all day or for a home spa day.

Steam to help flush out toxins

6/ Let off Steam

The humble sauna and steam rooms have long been known for their health benefits. Sweating helps to flush toxins out of the body and eliminate waste. It also helps to promote healthy blood flow, transporting oxygen around the body so take some time out, get hot and sweaty and just remember to keep hydrated.

Collage: Lexi Henderson